Should Deal Appoint Fewer White Guys? A Defense

Peach Pundit’s proprietors have taken issue with Better Georgia recently. Here’s more grist for the mill.

Bryan Long of Better Georgia has issued a petition to “tell the Gov. Deal that we want executive appointments to reflect what Georgia really looks like and all the people who live in Georgia — and not just who donates to the Governor’s campaigns.”

This comes in the wake of recent comments by State Sen. Vincent Fort, noting that the overwhelming majority of Governor Nathan Deal’s political appointments have been white and male. Politifact rated Fort’s assertion as half-true because Fort underestimated the number of nonwhite appointees. Fort said it was three percent. The AJC says it’s seven percent.

Discussing either figure misses the point, as does some convoluted discussion about qualifications or affirmative action or equal opportunity or racial set-asides. I like Better Georgia. A lot. I like hardball progressive media relations. But they’re barking up the wrong tree here.

You see, Deal’s first obligation when making political appointments in the execrable spoils system that is patronage politics in Georgia is to hire Republicans. The first qualification for a political appointment when the governor is a Republican is to be a Republican. If you’re not a registered Republican, generally speaking, you need not apply.

There’s nothing inherently racist about that. If a job around here was truly meant to be nonpartisan, it should be subject to civil service rules. But we’re talking about party hacks.

As George Washington Plunkitt, the great philosopher of Tammany Hall said, “This civil service law is the biggest fraud of the age. It is the curse of the nation. There can’t be no real patriotism while it lasts. How are you goin’ to interest our young men in their country if you have no offices to give them when they work for their party? … There was once a bright young man in my district who tackled one of these examinations. The next I heard of him he had settled down in Herr Most’s saloon smokin’ and drinkin’ beer and talkin’ socialism all day. Before that time he had never drank anything but whisky.”

Now, is Deal discriminating against nonwhite or female Republican candidates for political jobs? Probably not.

From Politifact:

In general, Georgia Republicans have had trouble gaining the support of black voters. In 2010, less than 3 percent of the state’s black voters cast ballots in the Republican primary, according to Emory University assistant political science professor Andra Gillespie. The professor cautioned that primary turnouts are typically low, so some black Republicans may have stayed home. She added that since Georgia has open primaries, some black voters who cast ballots in that primary may not typically side with the GOP. University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock estimated that 5 percent of black voters statewide cast their ballots for Deal.

I strongly suspect the observation that 93 percent of Deal’s political appointments are white is proportionately representative of the number Republican operatives in Georgia who are white. I’m betting 70 percent of the party’s operatives are men, too.

That’s a bigger problem for the party, of course. I suspect if the Republican Party spent more time fighting discrimination in society at large, it could attract more women and nonwhite voters to its ranks and thus into its sphere of political appointments, instead of contemplating how to clone Michael McNeely, Melvin Everson and Vivian Childs twenty times each.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, the governor was a Democrat. About 45 percent of the state is nonwhite, but roughly 80 percent of the state’s Democratic Party is nonwhite.  Only about one in four white voters in Georgia are Democrats and few nonwhite voters cast Republican ballots. Would it surprise anyone if four out of five political appointees under a Democratic governor were black, Latino or Asian? I can imagine all of the caterwauling about “affirmative action” hires, but that result would be reflective of the pool of Democratic applicants.

Remember that, when next you’re questioning the qualifications of political appointees in DeKalb and Fulton County.

This dynamic is what makes Deal’s action on the DeKalb school board mess stick out so starkly. His appointments appear to have mirrored the political and racial composition of the elected board; patronage considerations seem to have played no part in the process. I think he gets far too little credit for that.

The larger question might be to ask why there are 800 political appointees in state government in the first place. Does Georgia — which has a well-documented problem with political corruption — really need more than 800 positions subject to political appointment by the Governor’s office?

43 comments

  1. I’m going to start a petition to get Governor Deal’s donor list to look more like Georgia. Makes about as much sense as anything “Better” Georgia is proposing -maybe they’ll help.

  2. Charlie says:

    Has the “independent, non-partisan” Better Georgia petitioned Barack Obama to make his cabinet look more like America?

    How about have they petitioned the President for pay equity for his female appointees?

    Yet another partisan political stunt. And another one not worthy of the time or energy to play their game.

  3. tdk790 says:

    Another swing and a miss by Better Georgia. There was an opportunity to legitimately highlight the gender disparity without looking desperate, but of course they chose to go down the road of race baiting.

    • sockpuppet says:

      And why is gender legitimate but race legitimate? Why is it gender baiting and not race baiting?

        • tdk790 says:

          Fairly simple.

          If politicians only hire/appoint members of their party, a Republican in Georgia won’t have many African Americans to choose from, but on the other hand, there are endless numbers of Republican women. Why are 70% of his choices male? That’s an easier argument for Better Georgia.

  4. sockpuppet says:

    Deal should appoint more females, more Hispanics, and especially more Asians. But the GOP should not bother with blacks until blacks stop voting 95% for Democrats and yet blaming Republicans for all their problems. If blacks want to make Republicans their enemy, Republicans should treat them like the enemy.

      • sockpuppet says:

        @Lea:

        The black community treats and views the Republican Party as the enemy. To put it another way, the black community uses the GOP as the scapegoat for racism in mainstream America. It isn’t practical to hold all white people accountable for racism that blacks perceive to exist – and in many cases does in fact exist – and treating each person as an individual is impractical and inefficient also. So, the black community just blames Republicans out of convenience. Now there while there are some benefits to that mindset (which I won’t get into) the fact remains that it is a very bad deal for GOPers who A) are not racist and B) want to get elected to office in a state that is 31% black. And yes, blacks do tend to blame the GOP instead of the Democrats (white and black). Because blacks identify the GOP with racism and the Democrats with fighting racism, it leaves blacks no choice but to vote Democrat no matter how badly the Democrats perform or no matter how qualified, ethical or capable the Republican is.

        Now of course, when I say “treat them as the enemy” I am only talking about in a partisan political strategy sense. In other words, react to the reality. Deal could make black civil rights leaders 45% of his appointments and still be tarred as a racist and lose 95% of the white vote. The GOP needs to react to reality, plain and simple.

  5. Mike Stucka says:

    What about geographic diversity?

    I work for the newspaper covering Middle Georgia. Under Sonny Perdue, I typed up a whole lot more nominations from Middle Georgia. Under Nathan Deal, I see a whole lot of nominations from Gwinnett County. Diversity along the lines of rural-urban-suburban could be important to some decision-making processes, as well as different parts of the state …

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “Under Nathan Deal, I see a whole lot of nominations from Gwinnett County.”

      …Probably because Gwinnett County has more Republican voters than any other county in the entire Republican-dominated state of Georgia.

      Chances are, if a candidate wins the Republican vote in Gwinnett, they’re probably winning a statewide election at this point in Georgia’s history.

  6. mpierce says:

    We can add age, sexual orientation, nation origin, marital status, #of children, disability, veteran status, etc. Let the census bureau provide what we need and let a computer program select everyone. Of course we have to leave qualifications off the list because everyone is equal.

    • tdk790 says:

      Friendly tip – you may not want to make the qualifications argument when it comes to board appointments.

      • mpierce says:

        I’m not saying whether or not they are currently made on a qualifications basis, but that they should be. This push toward identity politics moves us further from that, not closer to it.

  7. Harry says:

    There are plenty of ethnically diverse, conservative, highly qualified individuals available. Some the governor will know and some not.

  8. saltycracker says:

    With changing demographics we Republicans would be better served gleaning the laws to insure equal treatment rather than playing Pogo’s “me first” political game. It is for sure the Democrats would fight any attempt at equal treatment with all they have.

  9. saltycracker says:

    Racial mix of Fulton’s workforce way off from county population

    By Johnny Edwards
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Fulton County’s government workforce no longer looks like Fulton County. Census figures put the population at 48 percent white and 45 percent black, but 83 percent of the county government’s 5,500 employees are black and 14 percent are white.

    No other core metro county, nor the city of Atlanta, has workforce demographics so divergent from the people it serves. There are indications that the imbalance is exacerbating resentments in a county polarized along racial lines and leading to discriminatory employment practices that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/racial-mix-of-fultons-workforce-way-off-from-count/nXWnT/

    • George Chidi says:

      That’s a good story.

      White folks have a legitimate beef with the county when white people are discriminated against in hiring and promotion. I see part of the county’s problem (and so do they): the applicant pool is disproportionately black.

      I can relate. I research corporate behavior all day, mostly of private employers … that is, when I’m not posting here. It’s hard in Atlanta not to notice when I’m looking the executive profiles of corporate leadership around here that it looks nothing like the population of metro Atlanta. About 30 percent of Metro Atlanta is black. A quarter of African American adults in metro Atlanta have a four-year degree. And I’d be surprised to see one black senior executive out of 15 on the staff of any private company around here that is not itself owned by an African American or a significant government contractor.

      Man, if only there was a way for organizations to deal with racial hiring imbalances that many white people didn’t reflexively consider an act of racism itself, some action hiring managers could take that allowed for equally-qualified people to be chosen as an affirmation of the need for a workforce that reflects society …

      • saltycracker says:

        Hiring qualifications that involve race/sex/religion should only be in specifically related job responsibilities and reflecting society is not one of them.

        Most companies set there qualifications then through an interview process make some judgmental leap of faith based on their experience/bias.

        Perhaps the best imperfect method is gleaning the candidates through a set of qualifications and then further glean them through a series of professional background checks and psychological testing. In this day of technology maybe someone will come up with a
        process that will be cost efficient for company customizing.

        Today a lot of problems come from failure to do adequate background checks and even then, past employers withholding info.

          • Harry says:

            If any employer private or public wants to be competitive, they better hire the best qualified.

            • Jackster says:

              Harry, it’s not that simple: In order to hire the best qualified, you have to be willing to pay for them. That may not be on the table.

              Also, stability and maintaining the workplace culture is important to most management and executives. Therefore, if they succumb to group think, don’t participate in peer interviews, or merely wish to hire based on referral and recommendation, then they will inevitably hire people just like themselves… race included.

              • Harry says:

                Good points. It can also happen that by not opening up they overpay staff. Either way competitiveness suffers.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              Not unlike their also intensely-dysfunctional neighbors in Clayton and DeKalb.

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